How to Record Your Mileage and Meet IRS Standards

If you are currently estimating your mileage on a piece of paper shoved in the back of your glove box and you expect a hefty tax return – think again.  Guestimates will not sit well with the IRS.  Keeping detailed records will pay off it you find yourself facing an audit.  When the IRS audits your mileage logs they look for the following:

Amount

There is no excuse for a poorly-kept mileage log.  Once a frustrating task is now a simplified process thanks to advancements in technology.  Aim for an accurate number by using the odometer of your vehicle to set a trip or invest in global positioning system (GPS) to track your exact route.  Take advantage of services such as MapQuest, which go as far as calculating miles, time and gas expenses.

Time

The court will look for consistent time stamps on your mileage log.  This requirement is simple.  Keep track of the month, day and year in each of your log entries.  This step can be automatic if you chose to store these  records via email.  Although a seemingly simple step, do not underestimate its significance.  Maintaining accurate dates will ensure better organization habits and make the audit process painless.

Place

The more data you can provide the better.  Indicating from where your mileage is derived will strengthen your case.  Including this information may seem redundant and unnecessary; however, it adds to the credibility of your mileage log.

Purpose

Why was this trip essential for your business?  The IRS wants to know the reason to support the trip.  For example, if you were purchasing supplies, it would be relevant to indicate what type of purchases you made on that specific  trip.

When you follow these requirements, your mileage log will meet IRS standards.  Additionally, it is important that you have the ability to access your log from several places.  The IRS will not care if your log is lost in cyber space or didn’t make through the basement flood.  Store your log in more than one location: computer files, email, thumb drive and a notebook.  Make it a priority to keep consistent records to avoid any detours when filing your return.